Beat the odds: Heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. each year—but you can lower your risk. Learn ways to take control of your heart health.
9 Steps to a Healthier Heart
- Understand your personal risk. Having even one of the following risk factors doubles your chance of developing heart disease. Schedule an appointment today to discuss these risk factors with your doctor:
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Low level of physical activity
- Family history of early heart disease
- Age 55 or older
- Get physical. Exercise two and a half hours each week by doing activities like fast walking, water aerobics, biking on mostly flat terrain or pushing a lawn mower. Whatever you do, go at a moderate intensity—enough to amp up your heart rate and break a sweat.
- Munch heart-healthy foods. A low-fat, low sodium diet rich in fruits and vegetables should help keep your blood pressure and cholesterol down. Be sure to include whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein; choose lean meats, poultry without the skin, seafood, soy products, nuts, seeds, beans and peas.
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- Aim for a healthy weight. BMI (body mass index) is a numerical value that relates your weight to your height. According to the American Heart Association, BMIs are good indicators of healthy or unhealthy weights for adult men and women, regardless of body frame size. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; a BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity.
- Quit smoking. Ask your doctor for tips on kicking the habit. You can also attend a class sponsored by our medical groups or take the online smoking cessation course through MyWHA Wellness.
- Control your blood pressure. Eat healthy meals with less sodium, get into an exercise regimen, practice relaxation techniques like meditation to help manage stress, and limit your alcohol intake to help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
- Know the good fats from the bad fats. Limit the types of foods that can increase your risk for heart disease, like red fatty meats. Eat lean meats, fish and healthy fats like nuts and avocados.
- Monitor your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, reduce your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise and medication. Keep up with your annual preventive care services, such as dilated retinal eye exams and foot exams along with regular lab tests.
- Know ALL the signs of a heart attack. Chest pain—uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back—is the most common heart attack symptom in women and men. However, some women have heart attacks without chest pain. The following symptoms occur more often in women than in men:
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the neck, back, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness
- Unusual fatigue
If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information, visit the American Heart Association's website.
Last review date: March 28, 2017